The Dreams by Naguib Mahfouz

Topic: The Dreams by Naguib Mahfouz

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Naguib Mahfouz was an Egyptian and the author of the novel Dream among many other short stories. A dream is a representation of what is going on in a person’s mind. It could be a revelation of what is going to happen in future. It does not have to necessarily occur to people when they are asleep, but it can also happen consciously through a vision. The following discussion focuses on the novel Dream and seeks to analyze it in order to understand the meaning of Mahfouz’s dreams.


Naguib Mahfouz, the author of the novel Dream, was born in Egypt in 1911. As a young man, he was interested in the history of his country, and this was largely because it is alleged that his mother used to take him to Museums regularly. This motivated him to study history in high school and later pursue his masters in arts at the University of Cairo.

He has written many other short stories and he is regarded as one of the most prolific writer in the Islamic world. Most of his novels touch on issues of politics, religion, culture and modernity.

The novel ‘Dream’ contains the images and the unresolved issues that were going on in the mind of Mahfouz. A dream is a representation of the person’s experiences. Most of what is observed originates from the unconscious part of the mind, but which is brought to the conscious through a dream. Some dreams have manifest meaning, that is, they make sense to the individual as they appear. On the other hand, others have latent or hidden meaning and they require deep analysis in order to get the meaning. Some dreams represented the old generations and times while others indicated the contemporary society of his time and the challenges that they were facing.

Some of the dreams expressed in the novel were vivid in that Mahfouz could relate with them. One of such dreams is when he saw his teacher, who had died sixty years ago coming back to tell him that most of what he had taught him needed some corrections. This is a dream that he could relate with since he had interacted with that particular teacher.

Other dreams that he experienced were the ones which predicted catastrophic moments of attacks, muggings, people being sentenced to death and several other social evils that were to come. It can be said that such dreams were prophetic in way as they foretold what Egypt would be going through in the future.

In the dream number thirty six, he sees himself as a qualified candidate for the post of the general director. However, it later turned out that his skills were obsolete and therefore he could not be considered for that work. This was a representation of the effects of technology which required that people add more knowledge in order to remain relevant in the job market.

Some of the critics of his work and those who have been used as translators argue that Mahfouz was dominated by some dreams because of the many affairs that he had with many women. Some of those images and the life they led together never left his mind and tat could be the reason he also dreamt of women. However, this could not be taken as a valid argument since most of his dreams touched on major social issues such as religion and culture.

In my own view, I would say that the dreams by Mahfouz were a representation of our society today. Many social changes have taken place affecting all the social institutions including the people’s culture. This is demonstrated by the fact that Cairo was going through a cultural revolution in 1919, the year in which he began making observation of the social life and the transformations that were taking place.

For instance, the dream where he was considered unfit for the job that he initially performed could be used to mean that the advancement of technology in the job market was going to affect the society negatively unless something was done. Human labor was being replaced by the use of machines and unless one knew how to operate them, they would lose their employment. As a result, people will suffer and there would be an increase in tension due to various social evils. This is supported by the dream where he saw people mugging others, death sentences and several other attacks that were repetitive. Therefore, the kind of change that the society was adopting was going to plunge them in more problems than they had experienced before.

Another important thing in his dream is the fact that he was dreaming about cultural disintegration. Initially, people lived in harmony since they had strong social bonds. The culture provided them with beliefs and values which acted as a code of conduct of their behavior. In his dream though, the social ties and the solidarity that held the community together was slowly deteriorating and people were becoming more individualistic. This again is true to what is happening in our generation today. People are more concerned about the universal culture which unites all the people in the world and ignores their traditions. All these were his predictions through his dreams.

The matters of religion were also experiencing change. In his dream number six, it is said that his religion teacher sent him some corrections regarding what he had taught him before. The teacher had apparently met with experts of religion who had died many years before her. They made amendments to what he used to teach and this was sent to Mahfouz. This, in my view is a representation of the changes that were to take place in matters regarding to religion. The past generation took this matter seriously and they fully trusted in the power of the Sovereign God or gods. They flocked at the worshipping places to offer their sacrifices and to express their reverence to the supernatural beings. However, as it is expressed in the dream, the current generation is shallow in matters regarding to religion and do not place much effort in them. The reason for this in my view is because people have gained knowledge which has transformed their minds and are looking at life issues from another perspective. They believe they can make it on their own compared to the past generation who believed in fate.

Going by the above argument and the analysis of Mahfouz’s dreams, I am convinced that the globalization perspective is the main theme in the novel. Globalization can be defined as the transfer of cultures from one part of the world to another. In the face of globalization also, people have the freedom to move to any part of the world and interact with the community around. Businesses are also free to determine their policies due to market liberalization. This is where business people are given freedom to decide the prices at which they are going to sell their products and at the same time, they have a right to sell the products they want to. The governments are also not spared in the wake of globalization as they are expected to observe democracy and ensure that people’s rights are respected.

The reason for the choice of the topic globalization is for the fact that most of the social change indicated in the dream stem from its effects. At the beginning, it is told that Egypt was going through a Cultural Revolution suggesting that they were transforming to other forms of behavior. Many psychologists argue that behavior is determined by the value that people have acquired. On the other hand, values and belief are provided by the culture that people hold. As a result of opening to the outside world especially the western world, Egypt began experiencing change in their dominant culture.

Cultural change was demonstrated by the way people began treating others. From the dream, it can be observed that the society had become hostile. They would mug and murder to gain properties. The main reason for this was because globalization brought a culture of individuality which seeks to kill the unity that people initially had. When this happens, people begin caring about their own lives and families and reduce their social contact with others. People fail to assist the less fortunate in the societies and as a result such people continue languishing in poverty. Such are the people who mug others since they have to survive by all means. Initially, there were no such instances since people lived as a community where they took care of one another.

In the matters of religion, globalization has also played a profound role in shaping the people’s belief. People have redefined God in their earthly and social lives. Initially, God was referred to as all knowing, the giver of life and the provider of all that people required. In the current generation though, much of this has changed and many even doubt about his existence. This can be demonstrated by the huge number of the pagans in the world today. In the novel dream, spiritual fulfillment is said to have faded because people have become corrupt in their ways. Most of them seek to fulfill their greedy desires by accumulating material wealth many of which are gained through unjustified means. This could be the reason why Mahfouz was dreaming of people being exposed to death sentences as a penalty for the social evils they had committed.

Globalization affects religion by socializing people through other secular beliefs that people need to work their way out. Other kinds of literature also change the people’s perspective. For instance, Karl Marx once said that religion is an opium of people, and that God is a creation of people. In his view, God does not exist in the real world but in the mind of people who believe in fate. Such sentiments which people of Cairo were gaining through education and interaction with many people from all corners of the world, made them less religious.

Cairo was also going through the process of urbanization as a result of commerce and other businesses that were taking place. Technology was being introduced to do away with the earlier traditional way of doing things. This was another force that changed the culture of people by providing them with new knowledge and a culture of the west people which most of the people adopted.

Finally, in his dream, Mahfouz saw how people distanced themselves from the truth which they had initially believed in. moral issues were no longer matters of the community but individual. This means that people determined what was good or bad to them and therefore they did not have a common point of reference. As a result, this brought about many social conflicts especially between the old and the current generation.


Mahfouz’s dreams were a representation of what was to take place in the future because of the social changes. His dreams indicated the social lives of the people and the negative impact that the forces of globalization would have on them. It shows that people will abandon their traditional cultures and acquire others which are considered superior and better. as a result of this, there would be a division between people especially between the young and old generation since they hold different values and beliefs.

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